My idea is a start up that recycles plastic mesh bags, fabric swatches and vinyl banners to create hip and fashionable school supplies for college students. Most products in the school supply market are either bland (low quality materials in solid, primary colors) or marketed to children (Star Wars or Dora themed). Our company brings the variety and expressiveness of children’s folders to college students with sophisticated designs that fulfill a desire for fashionable products, showcase the inherent value of Austin’s culture and help the environment by repurposing materials. Our business is viable because we will keep costs low and competitively price our products to our target market of Austin college students. We will keep our costs low by acquiring our materials for free, streamlining the collection of these materials with large collection bins and creating designs that require minimum assembly. From there we will market our products to the over 160,000 college students in Austin and its environs. In addition we are working on partnering with ACL and other iconic Austin events to incorporate their logos and inherent desirability into our products. This would allow us to reach a larger market and possibly sell our products at these events. Our start up is also scalable. Initially we will focus on selling to the UT market since it is the largest for school supplies in Austin. Additionally, the team is made up of many UT students and alums, which will help market our products to the school for sale in its campus stores. From there we will expand to sell our products around the city, targeting colleges such as St. Edwards, Concordia and ACC. Next, our products will be marketed to students attending universities in Austin’s hinterland such Texas State. Fabric swatches and Plastic mesh bags are widely available thus easy to source during expansion. Vinyl banners, however, are more difficult since those showcasing Austin are in limited supply. The banners themselves though are quite common and can be rearranged to create stylish patters. For expansion beyond Austin, this business model could be replicated in other vibrant university cities like Portland, Louisville and Boulder. New branches of our company could be formed in these cities, utilizing locally sourced plastic mesh bags, fabric swatches and vinyl banners to create products patterned on our designs but showcasing the uniqueness of the cities they are made in. Lastly, our company is fundable because we will keep costs low and initial investment cheap. We will avoid fixed costs by having the assembly of products done through third party operations and keep variable costs down by streamlining the collection and assembly processes. Thus we can wait to produce our school supplies until we have a large order from a store or university that will cover the costs of production. My family also owns property where the repurposed materials can be stored until the company can afford a warehouse.
Our startup is blessed with a diverse and competent team that will enable us to succeed. I am a triple major currently in my sophomore year at UT and from my experience as founder of the community service nonprofit “Golden Ears” I bring experience, a strong work ethic, administrative skills and vision to our start up. Our team also benefits from the expertise of our head designer Jacqueline Bruni, a retail merchandising major at UT. In charge of operations we have Nida Yan who has extensive experience in production management from her time running Dawn+Relentless. Our team is also blessed to have Jason Jones, former COO and head of marketing for Vital Farms and Sarina Sherwin, head of marketing strategy for Reebok, on board and collaborating with me on the branding, design and marketing of our products. We also benefit from the advice of Lu Yan, CEO of Yan engines.
Our products are designed to utilize as much of the locally sourced waste materials as possible. Additional materials, such as the metal used in our binders will be purchased from Austin-based firms. Furthermore, will handle production through 3rd party firms, supporting local industry. We will also directly hire drivers to pick up the waste materials from various locations around town and transport our products to market. This is a job open to any hard to employ groups legally allowed to drive. We will also impose a company wide minimum wage of $15 dollars for any Pulp Fashion employee. Once our company has grown sufficiently I envision moving the production process in house, where we will own the facilities and directly hire labor. Again, we will locate these operations in Austin, creating industrial jobs open to hard to employ groups and paying a living wage of $15 dollars per hour.
Not only will Pulp Fashion satisfy college students’ desire for fashionable school supplies but we will also provide an environmental service by helping to eliminate three materials from the waste stream. Our folders, binders and pencil cases will be made, as much as possible, from these materials in order to maximize the environmental impact of each product. Any additional materials we use will brought recycled, if possible. Our manufacturing operations will cause little to no environmental damage as they are based around sewing and gluing and any company vehicles used to transport materials will be either hybrid or electric in order to reduce carbon emissions and save money on gas.
Our school supplies are made from recycled materials will help to offset the demand for traditional school supplies, which are usually made of paper and cardboard. Thus the demand for paper products will decrease, alleviating pressure on forests by de-incentivizing deforestation.
As well as stylish, our products will be well made. This, coupled with the durability of our materials will make our product more durable than traditional, paper school supplies. In addition to cutting down on deforestation, this means that the lifecycle of our products will be longer than those of our competitors. Thus the waste materials we use will have their lifecycles greatly extended. Eventually however, the product will wear out and to address this, our company will set up collection bins at the universities we sell to so we can salvage any reusable materials for future production.